Getting Restless: London's Snappers
You may not know what to call the hybrid house sounds being made by Jesse Rose, Solid Groove, and company, but there's no mistaking its potent mix of mind-numbingly crisp techno/house beats, gritty, sample-riddled melodies, and bassbin-blowing sub-sonics–or its effectiveness on a dancefloor. UK Magazine DJ came close earlier this year when they dubbed the genre "fidget house," but even this catchy turn-of-phrase fails to encapsulate the whole essence of the sound.
A more apt touchstone for Americans might be "crunk house"–not because it's coked-up and drunk, but for the way its fuzzed-up, chunky basslines collide with crunchy, pulsating house rhythms to create a refreshingly original soundclash.
At the forefront of fidget is Jesse Rose, producer and label manager extraordinaire (he runs the Loungin, Made to Play, and Frontroom labels). Thanks in part to recent publicity, Rose has established himself as one of house music's most in-demand remixers, and he just completed a full-length album featuring collaborations with Henrik Schwarz and Domu. Though he's been producing for eight years, his love for dance music started long ago. "I got into this at 14 and loved to both listen to records and have a great time going out and partying," says the bearded 28-year-old. "Not a lot has changed."
The roots of fidget were layed down in 2000, when Rose bonded with soon-to-be scene player Dave Taylor (more commonly known as Switch) at a pub Christmas party. "Dave was coming from a deep house angle and I was on a more Chicago/Detroit tip," says Rose. "A year later we put out our first 12-inch on Classic, 'Jazz Chops (No Hang Ups)'–that was, in a way, the start of it."
Rose goes on to explain the driving forces that have taken him and West London cohorts like Taylor, Trevor Loveys, Graeme Sinden, and Joshua Herve into new dancefloor territory. "A couple of years back we just got bored with that stereotypical house music that starts and finishes the same, or builds up, then comes the bassline, then the chords, etc." Influenced by hip-hop and London underground staples like broken beat, grime, and dancehall–as well as the avant-dance meanderings of Herbert and Akufen–the loose-knit collective added breakier, more bass-heavy, and rawer elements to house's blueprint.
Genres aside, Rose points out that the biggest influence on his and Taylor's sound has been working with each other. Interplay and friendly competition in the studio helps build their empire one track at a time. "Dave would do some mad drop in a track and I'd come back with a folk drop," says Rose, discussing their production process. "He'd come back with a rock drop, and I'd be like 'Okay, check this Turkish drop out then.' The more off-key and original, the better, but the rule is the beats must be fat and it must do damage in the club."
Rose is not alone in this web of twisted house beats. The budding genre's first damage-inflictor was produced by Dave Taylor and Trevor Loveys under their Switch alias; "Get Ya Dub On," released on Freerange in 2003, went on to sell over 15,000 copies.
Taylor is a maniac in the studio, dedicating upwards of 12 hours a day to his productions, and somehow he still finds ample time to wild out. "He likes to party hard and loves a drink... or 10," laughs Rose. Taylor is the main man behind Switch, Solid Groove, and the Dubsided label, which has released dancefloor bangers like Induceve's "Warehouse Shit" and Switch's "A Bit Patchy," whose devastating breakdown makes clever use of the Incredible Bongo Band's breakbeat staple "Apache." Taylor has also lent a hand to productions and remixes for Kelis, Coldcut, and Blaze; when I tracked him down, he was putting the finishing touches on beats for high-profile London artist and preparing to attend the desert bacchanalia known as Burning Man with pal Freq Nasty.
Given all the success, Taylor keeps a laid-back attitude. "It's just a bit of fun really," he says. "We didn't think we'd get away with the humorous angle we put in the records but it seems people are ready for music that's slightly less serious in their clubs. It's a sound we enjoy making, [while] having a laugh and a few beers."
After running into Rose and Taylor at one of their many loft parties, handsome House of 909 veteran Trevor Loveys joined the crew. From his home in West London (the neighborhood most these producers hail from), he reminisces about growing up on '80s electro and hip-hop and jokes about a yet-to-be released "veggie jack" track he's made that samples carrots.
Loveys records under the jack-happy-house-meets-minimal-techno alias Speakerjunk (alongside Joshua Herve), and the pair runs a label of the same name.
"From funk to hip-hop, from dub to disco, it's all in the mix" is how Loveys describes his sound, and Herve–the group's 26-year-old young gun–concurs. "I like all kinds of music: electronic music, guitar music, hip-hop, and funk," he writes in a manic email. "This makes my music crunchy, funky, jackin' (in respect to the house stuff), and freesssssshhhhhh."
The final member of this five-fecta is Graeme Sinden. Fresh off of two mighty unpredictable tracks for Basement Jaxx's Atlantic Jaxx label, he's also recently kicked out remixes for Lady Sovereign, Mary J. Blige, and fellow West Londoners Bugz in the Attic. Described by some as the UK's answer to Diplo, Sinden adds Baltimore club, Miami bass, and baile funk to house's repertoire. "Meeting Jesse Rose and Dave Taylor inspired me to make house music that doesn't follow convention or have to be so sparkly clean," he notes. "You can pitch-shift vocals, use crazy samples, chop a vocal in a different way, drop out of the groove for eight bars into an old break–mess with people for a minute. As long as the music has some kinda nasty bass and it works in the club... that's all the matters."
West London's furious five had no calculated plan to take over the dance world with their backwards-sampled, funk-heavy house bliss, but they've managed to do so anyway, while nurturing a collective consciousness and natural flow. Their records are so surprising–in their special twists and tempos–that they appear in record bags as diverse as Derrick Carter's, Jazzanova's, and Gilles Peterson's. They're big, memorable records, suitable for dropping in mega-clubs and obscure lounges.
Refusing to be corralled into a particular sound, this band of West Londoners keeps it business as usual. "We just chop it up," says Loveys, laughing. "We put it in the blender with some veggies, turn the blender on, have a fag and a beer, tell a few jokes, switch the blender on again, and pour it into the mashatronic soul expander... and veggie jack is born, or is it fidget? What was I talking about again?"
Figuring Out Fidget House
A guide to these five producers' many aliases.
Members: Dave Taylor & Jesse Rose
Where it all started. Induceve is an amalgamation of crunchy, cut 'n' paste Herbert-style house and samples ranging from hip-hop to dub to folk. Their Pick It Up EP (Dubsided) was the first officially dubbed "fidget."
Members: Trevor Loveys & Dave Taylor
Responsible for some of the crew's biggest records including "A Bit Patchy" (Dubsided), a worldwide hit thanks its brukbeat house twist on the "Apache" break. Equal parts deep Chicago house and Detroit techno, the track is made uniquely their own with clever sampling, squelchy keys, and super-fat bass.
Members: Dave Taylor
The most prolific alias on the scene, Solid Groove has remixed house giants Basement Jaxx and Blaze, broken beat don Domu, and Brazilian funkeiro Edu K. Original credits include the broken beat anthem "Flookin" (Loungin), championed by tastemaker Gilles Peterson and big-room bombs like "This Is Sick" (Front Room).
Brucker and Sinden
Members: Dave Taylor & Graeme Sinden
Taking things in a more hip-hop and Baltimore club-influenced direction, these two are the Hollertronix of fidgit. They've jacked up Ying-Yang Twins' "Shake," mashed up Pharrell's "Can I Have It Like That" with Mr. Vegas' version of "Under Mi Sensi," and crunked up Busta Rhymes & Amerie's "Touch."
Members: Trevor Loveys & Joshua Herve
This duo deftly crafts jacking, warbly bass club monsters. Their premier 12-inch was May's "Scratch Up the Music" for their eponymous label, and they've kept up the pressure with broken electro-house reworkings of Jimi Hendrix and Busta Rhymes.